Geometry of Fear

Arts Council Collection

In the post-war years a new generation of artists, including Lynn Chadwick, Reg Butler and Kenneth Armitage moved away from the purity of Ben Nicholson and Barbara Hepworth's abstract compositions and the monumentality of Moore's sculptures.  Their work was characterised  by spiky, twisted forms, usually of the human figure or animals.  With these linear forms they introduced new ways of working with welded metals, and to a large extent they reflected some of the anxieties and fears of the post-war period.

Their work was exhibited together in the groundbreaking exhibition at the British Pavilion in the 1952 Venice Biennale.  The art historian Herbert Read's words have often been quoted and it was here that the phrase 'geometry of fear' was first coined: 'These new images belong to the iconography of despair, or of defiance... Here are the images of flight, or ragged claws “scuttling across the floors of silent seas”, of excoriated flesh, frustrated sex, the geometry of fear... These British sculptors have given sculpture what it never had before our time - a linear, cursive quality.'

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